Tennis

Tennis Magic Monday for Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic at Wimbledon

Tennis Magic Monday for Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic at Wimbledon
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A mellow Nick Kyrgios and an emotional Ajla Tomljanovic have made it a memorable Monday for Australia’s Wimbledon challenge on a day of heart, courage and tears on the lawns of SW19.

A big day for Aussie tennis, with four players in the last-16 draws for the first time since 1999, was tinged with disappointment as both Alex de Minaur and Jason Kubler were knocked out in their fourth-round matches.

But Kyrgios took on the men’s mantle of ‘Aussie battler’ by scrapping his way into the quarter-finals on a day when his famed volatility was replaced by stubborn bloody-mindedness on center court as he tamed American Brandon Nakashima in five sets while nursing a shoulder injury.

Then Tomljanovic, so often burdened by her own lack of self-belief, produced one of the gutsiest performances of her career to slay Wimbledon’s very own giant-killer Alize Cornet and reach the SW19 quarters for the second time in a row.

No Australian woman has achieved that feat since Jelena Dokic 22 years ago, and Tomljanovic brought a lump to the throats of the fans on court 2 as she declared after her tears subsided: « I didn’t really think I could do it… « 

De Minaur and Kubler, the archetypal ‘Aussie battlers’, had to hand over that crown for a day to Kyrgios, who produced, by his glittering standards, a subdued performance with few fireworks – and no controversy – but still wrestled his way to a first grand slam quarters since 2015.

The only disappointment for Kyrgios after his 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 win over rising 20-year-old Nakashima was that he wouldn’t be able to play his Sydney pal and Minaur’s Aussie No.1 in the last eight.

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« I was really excited to play De Minaur to be honest, he’s been flying the Aussie flag for so long and he was two sets up when I came on court, » said Kyrgios, who’d been hoping Australia might get three men into the Wimbledon quarters for the first time in 51 years.

Minaur’s goal relinquished a two-set advantage, then was unable to convert either of two match points in the deciding set of a sapping 2-6 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 7-6 (10- 6) loss to the unseeded Chilean Cristian Garin.

Kubler’s dream run through the qualifiers to his first-ever grand slam quarter-final was then ended in perhaps predictably brutal fashion as he was taken to school by big-hitting American 11th seed Taylor Fritz 6-3 6-1 6-4.

But Kyrgios cast aside the showman’s cloak to knuckle down to his win, which was a mercifully subdued affair compared to the mayhem that had enveloped his previous barn-burner with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

« I knew from the get-go I wasn’t playing as well as I would have liked. I knew I had to keep my head down and just battle today. It was a good mental performance, » said Kyrgios.

Tomljanovic must have been proud of hers too, as she had to come from a set down and hold off a late rally from the indomitable Cornet, conqueror of world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the previous round, before winning 4-6 6-4 6-3.

She will next tackle talented Kazakh left-hander Elena Rybakina, who beat her on clay in their only meeting in Madrid last year. »

« After last year, facing Ash (Barty in the quarter-finals), I can face anyone, » beamed 29-year-old Tomljanovic, who’ll be making good viewing for the Netflix tennis documentary crew who’ve been following her rejuvenating run.

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